on the history of the WWII 327/401 Glider Infantry
Most information below was taken from the book SKY RIDERS by James Lee McDonough and Richard S. Gardner. Unfortunately, one of the few books written about the glidermen of WWII who were looked upon by some as not good enough to be paratroopers but crazy enough to have a coffin for a ride!! Instead, these men deserve our utmost respect. By making more information available on these glider infantry heroes in their airplanes without engines, we try to honor them in the best way we know.
This summary will concentrate on
the 401-part of the Glider Regiment as a prelude to three stories told by the
son of Benny Cohen (401 B Co) about his father.
Mike wrote: "My Father, Benny Cohen, was a soldier in the 401 B. Benny was a very modest and quiet man but always talked about his war time experiences while fighting in Holland and the Netherlands. He had a special place in his heart for the Dutch and always felt that he was privileged to have been able to contribute to the liberation of such wonderful people and their country. My Father died 12 years ago, so on his behalf I would like to sincerely thank you for remembering those brave young men !"
Thank you Mike, for sharing with us. These pages are dedicated to the memory of your Dad and his comrades-in-arms.
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In August 1942, the US 82nd Airborne
Division is split, and a new Airborne Division - the 101st is formed. In the
process, some already trained paratroop regiments are added to the two newly
The majority of these men, who were not parachutists, would become glidermen. Those who might not wish to ride in a glider could ask for a transfer.
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Harper, at the time a battalion commander in the 326 Infantry Regiment, was selected to command the 401 Glider Regiment. When asked what he thought about that, Harper replied that he would like to be a regimental commander but that, unfortunately, he did not know anything about gliders. "Well", Brigadier General Donald F. Pratt commented, "nobody else does either!".
Colonel George S. Wear was selected
to lead the 327. As the two regiments progressed in their training, a sense
of esprit de corps developed. The 327, having been in World War I, had a tradition
of which it could be proud.
The 401, as a new regiment, had to make its own.
Glidermen were different from the parachutists. They were draftees too, but did not necessarily volunteer to be a gliderman, unlike the paratroopers who volunteered to join the airborne units. Nor did they receive extra pay or jump boots, compensations that were matters of great pride among parachutists. Glidermen were required to wear canvas leggings. Most of the glidermen were older than the parachutists, generally in their late twenties or early thirties. Many were married and fathers. Colonel Harper came to believe that these factors gave the glidermen an advantage - that his troops were more likely to fight rationally and effectively than some of the younger, wilder, and more impulsive paratroops.
A paratrooper received $ 55 per month extra as hazardous duty pay. The glidermen received nothing extra. One of the promotion posters read: "No flight pay, no jump pay, but never a dull moment!" It wasn't until after the Normandy invasion, when glider troops suffered heavier casualties per unit in the direct assault than parachutists, that flight pay was authorized.
During training and maneuvers in
the hills of Tennesse and Kentucky, Colonel Harper earned his nickname "Dig
them Deeper, Bud", after inspecting the foxholes of the 401 soldiers. In
March 1944, the 401 was split up in order to make a battalion available for
the 82nd Airborne Division. This was to be 2nd Battalion.
1st Battalion would frequently serve with the 327 - it would come in by sea with the 4th Infantry Division during D-Day, due to the fact that there were too few gliders available for the Division. It was a great disappointment to the glidermen.
(photo: reproduction pastel drawing by F/O Dale Oliven)
At the start of Operation Market-Garden, September 1944, the 327 and 401 would constitute the Division reserve, committed wherever reinforcements were most needed. They were airlifted on D plus 1, September 18 1944. 178 gliders landed at Zon (spelled Son nowadays), The Netherlands, at 1530 hours, another 80 gliders in the afternoon of the 19th. The 401 was sent to reinforce at Best and Veghel where fierce fighting went on to safeguard the main road of advance, nicknamed Hell's Highway.
Instead of pulling out the Airborne regiments, they were moved up North to relieve British troops on the front lines in an area between the rivers Waal and Neder Rijn, nicknamed The Island. They would set a new record of 72 days for continuous service in the front lines, suffering many casualties.
In November '44 the unit was moved
by trucks to Mourmelon, France - a rest area. It wasn't to last long as on the
16th of December Hitler launched the greatest offensive of the war in the west
since the spring of 1940. Moving out of Mourmelon on the 18th of December, the
101st was in a hurry to stop the gap. Supplies were short - hardly any winter
gear was to be had. It was on the snowbound, gently rolling hills around the
little Belgian town of Bastogne that the 327 and the 401 were about to render
their greatest fighting-stand during WWII. Due to their tenacious defense of
the town of Bastogne that the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment earned their nick
"Bastogne Bulldogs" - a name still donned with pride today by 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
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Benny Cohen - 1
Benny Cohen - 2
Cohen - 3